29 July 2019
“There is no consensus that this is less harmful than regular tobacco cigarettes,” the ICA stated.
Electronic cigarettes are just as harmful as regular cigarettes, and any claim otherwise “is equivalent to the claim that a heart attack is less harmful than cancer,” the Israel Cancer Association (ICA) wrote Monday.
The statement followed the Friday publication of a new, 120-page report from the World Health Organization (WHO) on the global tobacco epidemic.
The WHO report warned that electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) are “undoubtedly harmful and should therefore be subject to regulation.”
It noted that ENDS are not necessarily effective tools in smoking-cessation efforts, citing studies that indicate that never-smoker minors who use ENDS at least double their chances of starting to smoke later in life.
Nonetheless, because ENDS encompass an extensive variety of e-cigarettes, vape pens and e-hookahs offered across different geographic and demographic markets, WHO reports that “the specific risk associated with ENDS has not yet been conclusively estimated.”
The ICA emphasized that “there is no consensus that this is less harmful than regular tobacco cigarettes,” adding that electronic cigarettes allow people, especially young people, to inhale nicotine “in a quantity that is significantly higher than regular cigarettes.”
The report specifically condemned Public Health England, which stated in December of 2018 that e-cigarettes are 95% safer than traditional cigarettes. The ICA stated that the UK public health authority ignores “eye-catching evidence from leading medical and public health professionals in England and elsewhere” indicating otherwise.
“This opinion serves as a fig leaf for the manufacturers of electronic cigarettes, who repeat the misleading message,” it continued.
Israel banned high-nicotine Juul e-cigarettes in 2018 due to public health concerns, causing the company to switch to a lighter version of its nicotine pods.
In the first three months that Juul was marketed in Israel, the percentage of adolescents aged 13-18 who reported trying the e-cigarettes rose from 0.4% to 5.3%, though Juul Labs co-founder James Monsees has recently stated that the company never intended for its product to be adopted by teenagers.
The immediate popularity of e-cigarettes among Israeli minors mirrors what has been seen internationally: Three years after Juul was introduced to the American market, its use among adolescents stood at about 20%.
“The ICA will continue to act to protect the public – especially the younger generation – from all forms of smoking,” the statement, released by ICA spokesperson Nava Inbar, stated. “Smoking is smoking is smoking, and this behavior must be eliminated and not preserved.”